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California’s Parent-Trigger Causes Stir

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Parent-trigger laws – that is to say, laws that allow parents, through a petition process, to turn their traditional public school into a charter school – are designed to give parents a tool to make positive changes to their children’s school if they feel local administrators are not doing enough to ensure a top quality education at their campus. It’s a new form of school choice, first enacted in California in 2010, and recently has caused a legal scuffle in one California district where parents are trying to, in effect, “pull the trigger”. From the Wall Street Journal:

It has come to this in California's saga over "parent-trigger" education reform: A local school board is openly defying a judge's order, with one member declaring "If I'm found in contempt of court, I brought my own handcuffs, take me away." So now the stalwarts of the status quo will break the law rather than allow parents school choice.

A California Superior Court judge ruled last month that several hundred parents in Adelanto, California had successfully pulled the nation's first parent trigger to force change at their children's failing public school. The judge "commanded" the Adelanto school board to let the parents "immediately begin the process of soliciting and selecting" proposals to transform Desert Trails Elementary into a charter school.

At a recent hearing, the school board unanimously refused.

The legality of the school board’s actions aside, what is most troubling here is the outright unwillingness to let the voices of parents at Desert Trails Elementary be heard. They have made an effort to impact positive change at their school which is completely within their rights per California state law, and are being openly stonewalled by the district’s local governing body. This is not only unfair to the parents, but unfair to the students who must continue to be educated at what is an academically substandard campus; per California academic standards, Desert Trails has been classified as a failing school for six consecutive years.

Reforms like the parent-trigger law are understandably unsettling to the affected portions of the education community. But in this case, parents have been given a legal recourse to make changes at their school, and they’ve taken it. This is a move made with the hope of improving the education of the students at Desert Trails Elementary. That’s not something the school board of Adelanto, CA should be standing in the way of.